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Spotlight

2020-21 Year-in-Review

Department of

Modern Languages and Literatures

Department website

Active Students (as of August 2021)

Undergrad majors: 110
Undergrad minors: 370
Undergrad certificates: 234
Graduate students: 51
Graduate certificates: 22

2020-21 Student Credit Hours: 37,468

Woman presenting in traditional attire

This year, collaboration was a hallmark of many successful undertakings in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures (MLL). From interdisciplinary faculty teams exploring pedagogical innovations, to grant-winning partnerships with other UCF colleges, to outreach activities that engage our faculty and students with the local, national and international communities, thinking past boundaries has led to a range of accomplishments and tapped into new potential.

Several grant projects attest to the vibrancy of creative collaboration. Faculty in our Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program continued work under two substantial multi-year grants they share with the College of Community Innovation and Education. Their work has a direct impact on local school districts and includes a first-in-the-state dual-language graduate teaching certificate in Spanish and English. MLL faculty members, along with colleagues in other departments, were awarded their second $25,000 Pabst Steinmetz Foundation Arts and Wellness Innovation Award for a project promoting the importance of infant vaccination in underserved communities. A member of our Spanish faculty and the director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program are collaborating on a Fulbright-Hayes grant project to create a women’s history curriculum for schools in Argentina. Our Russian program received a STARTALK grant for the sixth consecutive year, bringing university and high-school students together for an intensive summer language experience. The benefits of these and other such projects will be felt locally and abroad.


Thinking past boundaries has led to a range of accomplishments and tapped into new potential.


Regarding curriculum, we enhanced ways to combine our multicultural focus with the needs of students preparing themselves for the future in an increasingly globalized world. For example, we are expanding our offerings to include new certificates in Brazilian Studies and Russian as a Critical Language, as well as a minor in Applied Linguistics in our TESOL program. New course offerings included Business Portuguese and Medical French Translation and Interpretation, and we have designed introductory-level credit courses in Kurdish and Quechua. In addition, the number of internships and courses with service-learning components is on the rise, bolstering student opportunities as well as our relationship with partners here and abroad. MLL faculty have also contributed to UCF’s reputation as a groundbreaker in technology-enhanced learning, with more than nine faculty members participating in Course Redesign Initiative projects, bringing such innovations as adaptive learning, virtual reality and gaming to the language classroom.

Faculty also mentored students in a variety of successful endeavors. A TESOL student was recognized with a College of Arts and Humanities 2020–2021 Award for Excellence as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. A student of Russian received the Order of Pegasus and Post‐Secondary Russian Scholar Laureate awards. Several undergraduate and graduate students published book reviews in journals and presented research at conferences in their disciplines. Students won silver and bronze medals in an international poetry-reading contest.

MLL held several virtual events that reached out to the wider public. The Spanish Graduate Association held its 21st annual colloquium, with a renowned Spanish author as the plenary speaker. The Italian program hosted its annual Euliano lecture, this year celebrating the year of Dante with a talk by an international expert in Dante studies. The Japanese program hosted an intercontinental, interdisciplinary symposium on careers in game development in Japan, attended or viewed by at least 350 UCF language students, Digital Media students and spectators from outside UCF.

It was a positive year for individual faculty members as well. Their dedication was recognized with four Teaching Incentive Program awards, three CAH Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Awards, and two Research Incentive Awards. Career milestones included two promotions to Senior Instructor, one faculty member earning tenure and promotion to associate professor and another promoted to professor. In addition, two faculty were inducted into UCF’s prestigious Scroll & Quill Society. Despite the constraints imposed by the pandemic, faculty were active in publishing and presenting their research, which included four single- or co-authored books, at least two dozen single- or co-authored articles and book chapters and more than sixty presentations at regional, national and international conferences, with one faculty member earning a Best Presentation award at an international conference in Dubai. Several people also earned distinction for their creative activities, with one faculty member being named Poet of the Month by the North American Academy of the Spanish Language and another featured at a book signing event in Guadeloupe.

Finally, our department is proud to have launched an initiative called Actions for Systemic Solidarity and Empathy Together (ASSET). A team effort run by members of the administrative staff and faculty, ASSET affirms MLL’s commitment to a sustained focus on issues of diversity, inclusion and equity. Overall, thanks to collaborations and collegiality, 2020–21 proved to be a productive time for the department. We look forward to our return to new “normal” operations and to continued progress in the year to come.

— Geri Smith, department chair